Donald Trump has told the United States' allies they should be supporting the North American bid for the 2026 World Cup, and not Morocco's, in a veiled threat on Twitter.
In a tweet posted on Thursday, President Trump wrote: "The U.S. has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup. It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don't support us (including at the United Nations)?"
The U.S. has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup. It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations)?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2018
Trump has been quiet about the race to host the 2026 tournament but this blunt intervention comes at a time when Morocco's chances of upsetting the front-running, US-led bid are improving.
This is despite the United bid offering FIFA almost guaranteed revenues of £3.5billion, with very little risk related to infrastructure, and another opportunity to grow the game in the world's most valuable market.
Morocco's bid, on the other hand, depends on huge levels of infrastructure investment, including nine new stadiums, with nowhere near the same potential income.
Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto replied to Trump's tweet, writing "we can have differences but soccer unites us" and pledging his support to the joint bid. The differences he refers to are related to Trump's desire to build a wall between their countries.
This, however, is only one example of Trump's policies or rhetoric that have annoyed other countries.
This, and the usual alliances and politicking you get in every sporting vote, have combined to make the vote for the 2026 host, which takes place in Moscow on June 13, much closer than anybody expected.
And Trump's tweet is unlikely to help matters as it may lead to FIFA having to warn the United bid about its conduct.
According to FIFA rules, all member associations must be "independent and avoid any form of political interference".
The rules of conduct for the 2026 bidding contest also call for "impeccable and ethical behaviour" from "all football stakeholders who are directly or indirectly involved" in the bid.